Monthly Archives: January 2014

Bad Horse or Bad Company?

Fielding Bettersworth Inquest Report

Fielding Bettersworth Inquest Report

They assembled on June 11, 1846 at the Bowling Green home of one Fielding Bettersworth, recently deceased.  The task of the twelve citizens was to determine, at the behest of the Warren County coroner, the “when where how and after what manner” said Bettersworth departed this life.  Having found no “marks of violence on his body,” and presumably having made such further and other inquiries as they deemed necessary, the panel concluded that the deceased had come to his end “by falling in water and mud and drowning being intoxicated at the time.”

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library holds many other inquest reports in a large collection of Warren County court records currently being processed.  Dating as far back as 1798, they include findings of death by routine misadventure–overindulgence in spirits, drownings, accidental gunshots, fires–or foul play, but also by more mysterious means.  Take the 1811 case of a man found dead two miles west of Bowling Green, about 50, average height, “very corpulent,” with “no teeth in the under jaw except the eye tooth on the right side,” two fingers missing from the left hand. . . and a pair of bridle reins drawn tight around his neck.  After describing in detail the man’s clothing and property, including “money amounting to about $75,” and finding that he had been travelling through the area with several other gentlemen, the inquest determined that death came after he “was strangled by the bridle reins, either by his horse or his company.”

Click here to access a finding aid for the inquest report on Fielding Bettersworth.  For other collections of Kentucky court records, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Health Clinic Reports

It’s flu season again.  Regardless of the time of year the WKU Clinic sees patients all year round.  In January 1964 the Western Clinic administered the following:

  • 51 allergy immunizations
  • 50 doses of insulin
  • 92 respiratory system treatments
  • 19 gastro-intestinal treatments
  • 7 nervous system treatments
  • 9 bones, joints & muscle treatments
  • 49 accidents
  • 15 eye, ear, nose, etc. treatments
  • 17 wounds dressed
  • 39 consultations
  • 1 case of scarlet fever
  • 3 cases of red measles
  • 18 infirmary patients
  • 36 students advised to see a physician

The entire year’s reports are available to researchers online at:

Stay warm and healthy!

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The Liberator, Anti-slavery Newspaper





The anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, has been recently acquired by the WKU Special Collections Library.  William Lloyd Garrison was the editor and J. B. Yerrinton & Son were the printers.  These newspapers were published from 1831-1865 from the Anti-slavery office in Boston.  The motto of the newspaper, “Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind” can be seen below the front page, pictorial depiction of slavery.  The Special Collections Library now features 14 original print copies of various issues from 1853-1864 of this anti-slavery newspaper to add to the SCL newspaper collection.  Special thanks to Jonathan Jeffrey for noticing these important newspapers in a Texas store, while on the holiday break.

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by | January 27, 2014 · 4:01 pm

“Who is living and dead”

Nancy Wier's letter in search of family, 1865

Nancy Wier’s letter in search of family, 1865

It was the plaintive appeal of a woman displaced by war.  In 1865, Nancy Wier wrote from Webster County, Kentucky to the postmaster at Danville, Virginia.  A native of the area, Nancy had lost touch with her family after the outbreak of hostilities.  Her husband, a Confederate soldier, had been imprisoned at Camp Douglas, Illinois, where he died of smallpox.  Left with four children, Nancy had been teaching school but “my troubles are very great,” she explained to the postmaster.  “I wish to know who of my relatives and friends are living,” she wrote, naming her sisters, her “old father” and her brothers, who she hoped might come and “spend the last of their days with me.”

Fortunately, three years later Nancy had not only reestablished contact with her siblings, she had remarried and her children had begun lives of their own.  Nevertheless, her mother’s radar was intact.  “I can never get weaned from my children,” she wrote a sister.  “Bettie lives 18 miles from me Sarah five Virginia two and a half William ten he often comes to see me they come as often as they can.”  Equally strong was her desire to maintain contact with those lost to her during the war.  She agreed with her brother that even “if we never can see each other we must try to keep up correspondence.”  Having found out “who is living and dead,” she was determined not to loosen the ties again.

Nancy Wier’s letters and those of other family members are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here and here to access finding aids.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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In the Deep Freeze

Martha Potter's snowy State Street home, Bowling Green

Martha Potter’s snowy State Street home, Bowling Green

A blizzard paralyzed the East, temperatures dropped to zero, and the storms even brought Bowling Green down to a teeth-chattering 3 degrees.  It was February 1934, a month of wintry weather for the record books.

“Snowing this morning, great flakes, the kind you like to catch on a piece of black velvet and study the crystals,” wrote Martha Potter on February 21 in her weekly letter to her children.  By February 28, the snow had subsided, but 65-year-old Martha, while spared the necessity of driving, felt the lingering effects of the storm.  After the snow came rain, then a plunge in temperature that “set the whole works” into crusty heaps.  “I attempted to walk to church,” she wrote, “and the cars that went by threw ice balls down my collar and into my pockets.  I finally just stood still when I would see one coming and duck my shoulders.”  That Sunday was the worst day, as “the ice broke off great branches from the trees, impeding traffic and pulling down wires, so that lights were out and telephone connections in some places disturbed.”  Some people feared “there was a fire as it sounded like twigs cracking and burning.”

Martha also related the attempt of a friend and her husband to pay a visit on that “icy Sunday,” thwarted because “nobody could get up the hill on Main Street.”  A full week later, they were still trying to pass along roads filled with tree limbs and other debris, leaving their car “mired to the hubs.”  After an extraction that took two hours, they suffered the same fate the next day . . . and the next.

Fortunately, wrote Martha, a thaw was on the way.  As the temperature climbed to a balmy 38 degrees, the retreating snow started to make “big noises leaving the roof of the house and sliding down the gutters,” closing another memorable chapter in Bowling Green’s winter history.

Martha Potter’s letters are part of the Lissauer Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  For other collections documenting weather and storms, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Pig in Class

Forsythe & Pig

Belmont Forsythe
with Socrates-Kruger

During the school break between the summer and fall semester of 1939 I obtained Socrates-Kruger from my father’s farm in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. He was six weeks old. He became well trained and responded very obediently while on hiis pig’s leash. Socrates-Kruger soon became a campus celebrity as he accompanied me to class and around the campus (he was always fastened to the outside doorknob of the classrooms. I was firing a coal fed furnace at a boarding house on State Street, Socrates-Kruger stayed with me in my basement room which ws located next to the coal bin. He continued to get into the coal bin, and therefore needed a bath everyday. After six weeks of enjoying his celebrity status he was returned to my father’s farm when in 2 years he joined his ancestors, Socrates & Kruger. He is pictured here in front of H.H. Cherry Hall. Belmont Forsythe, AB ’40.

Socrates-Kruger was named for the Greek philosopher and General Paul Kruger of South Africa.

Check out KenCat for more images of WKU students and alumni.

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Broke. . . and Innocent?

Simpson County Republicans contribute to the Caleb Powers defense fund.

Simpson County Republicans contribute to the Caleb Powers defense fund.

I have been awarded three trials, two of which have been reversed by the supreme court. . . .  I am now preparing an appeal at a considerable cost. . . .  I am now forced to call on my friends for means with which to fight this case. . . .  I am absolutely innocent of the charge they have so unjustly imposed upon me.

Similar declarations issue from high-profile defendants involved in notorious civil or criminal cases, but this appeal arose in connection with the only assassination of a sitting state governor, Kentucky’s William J. Goebel, shot near the Old State Capitol on January 30, 1900.

The investigation into Goebel’s murder eventually resulted in trials that were as controversial as the governor himself.  Among the accused were Caleb Powers, secretary of state to Republican William S. Taylor, Goebel’s electoral rival, and James B. Howard, who some believed had fired the fatal shot.  Though both men were eventually pardoned, their lengthy and expensive legal battles prompted appeals for contributions to their defense funds.  Howard’s letter, excerpted above, went out to postmasters in Kentucky urging them to “have some of our friends make a house to house canvass” for donations.  In Simpson County, Republicans responded to Powers’ appeal with 50-cent to five-dollar donations ($15-$130 today), eliciting “warmest gratitude” from the jailed Powers.  In a note to supporter Edwin L. Richards (the father of longtime WKU faculty member Frances Richards), Powers alluded to the hostile prison (and perhaps political) landscape he inhabited.  “I am glad,” he wrote Richards, “you were at Frankfort and know of the conditions there.”

The letters of James Howard and Caleb Powers are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections involving Kentucky crime and politics, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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December Out of the Box

Athletic Media Relations Photos collection inventory

BUWKY Dec. 1942

BUWKY Dec. 1942

BUWKY, December 1942

Christmas – lots of information regarding Christmas celebrations at WKU

College Heights Herald, January 1929

Diddle Arena Dedication Program 50 years ago

John Minton Swearing In listen to the audiotape and read along

Registrar’s Degree File collection inventory

Schneider Hall building history with links to documents and photos

Snow read about and see images of snow covered WKU campus through the years

Thomas Meredith WKU’s eighth president 1988-1997

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